Council votes to reinstate free weekend parking in the Cairns CBD
Cairns Regional Council says free weekend parking will start this weekend.
On-street CBD parking will be free from 2pm on Saturday and all day on Sunday, plus there will also be no time limits during those hours.
Mayor Bob Manning is encouraging residents to take advantage of the rules to support CBD businesses.
"At the end of the day, it is up to all of us to support the CBD to ensure its future prosperity,” he said.
“Providing free parking on Saturday afternoons and all day on Sundays is one way we can encourage residents to come into the city, walk around, browse the shops, have something to eat and enjoy the many great things about our CBD.”
Parking in the CBD will be free all day on Sundays and after 2pm on Saturdays after the Cairns Regional Council responded to concerns by retailers that paid parking has led to a drop-off in trade.
Councillors this morning unanimously voted to overturn the seven-day parking regulation, which came into effect in January last year.
In doing so, they rejected their officer’s recommendation to retain the policy on the basis of strong visitation levels and the need for parking spots to be regularly turned over.
The data showed compared with week days, the number of parked car minutes was virtually unchanged on Saturdays and was down just 23% on Sundays.
“If we can help we should,” said Cr Brett Moller.
“Despite that data, the perception out there by our residents is that weekend parking charges are impacting on visitation to the CBD.
“Clearly we haven’t got the narrative right if that’s the data but as a Council the political reality is we should be mature enough to listen to our residents and act accordingly.”
The decision is expected to reduce the Council’s yearly income by $890,000.
It was prompted by a request from the Cairns Chamber of Commerce, representing CBD small businesses.
However, Councillor Brett Olds raised concerns that it was also the Chamber that had spurred the introduction of paid parking, amid concerns free parking was leading to motorists hogging spots all day.
“I was happy with the officer’s recommendation to leave it because I’ve been talking to a lot of businesses,” he said.
“One of my friends has 25 employees through three stores there and I spoke to one of the longest term store owners yesterday and they don’t want to speak publicly but they’re saying paid parking is working.
“There’s a lot more going on here with their businesses, not just the high rents they pay, the online retail, tourism numbers have dropped off a little bit, it’s been raining for four and a half months.”
He added that with the changes coming into effect over the peak tourism and events season, it could be wrongly perceived that free parking is responsible for higher visitor numbers over the coming months.
The Council will now liaise with the Chamber of Commerce to ensure retailers aren't allowing their staff to take potential customer car parks and to try to bring forward the current September 1st implementation date.